Much of this is now out of date. I've added a few comments, Jan 2011
Subject: [bike] A tale of four bike lights > Re: [bike] Any one else want to borrow the SolidLights LED light set ? > 1 week loan - you might have to write a few words as a review. I used the SolidLights together with three other lights for comparison. (Not all at once, they wouldn't all fit on my handlebars together.) All this considers the lights solely from a commuting viewpoint. 1) Cateye HL-EL300 A fairly common non-Luxeon LED headlight, currently £32.99 at Wiggle. http://www.wiggle.co.uk/Default.aspx?ProdID=5300004473 http://www.cateye.com/en/products/viewProduct.php?modelId=19&catId=7&subCatId=2 Unlike most front LED lights, it has British Standard 6102/3 approval. It lasts for hours and hours on a set of four NiMH AA cells. (I tried leaving it turned on on my desk, and eight hours later it was a little bit dimmer but still usable.) This is perfectly usable on its own in town as a light to be seen by. The five LED head is fairly bulky, but fits in at least some pockets, and the bulk possibly helps with how visible it is to other users. Out of town it's ok on a moonlit night, or on a summer evening when the sun only just set and there is still a glow on the horizon, or within a few miles of streetlights with orange glow reflecting off the bottom low clouds. But on a cloudy winter evening under overhanging trees, its very small bright spot and very little light outside that are rather limiting. Comparable products and possible improvements: There's now the EL500, with a 1W Luxeon. A bit more expensive, a bit more compact, no BS approval, and reviews vary on whether it's much of an improvement over the 300 or not.I later bought an HL-EL530. It wasn't a huge improvement on the 300, and it wasn't as robust. I still have the 300, but the 530 broke (and its switch was always a bit dodgy). I also have a Trelock 735, which appears to be the same as a Trelock 730 but at a reduced price exclusively for Decathalon.
2) Lumotec A 3W dynamo light (I use a battery rear light so swapped the 2.4W bulb it comes with, designed for use with a 0.6W rear bulb in series). £14.50 from http://www.kinetics.org.uk/html/b_m_front_lights.shtml My bicycle came with a cheap dynamo lighting set, wired together with some damp cotton. I fitted battery lights at the time, but last year I did eventually get round to getting the front light working off the dynamo. I bought a Lumotec to replace the by then broken front light it came with, and a Zinkens Dynashoe to mount it on the V-brake stud, so it only has a very short wire directly to the front light, but am still using the original bottle dynamo, exact model unknown. (Battery powered LED rear lights last for months, so I decided the simplicity and extra front light was worth more than a dynamo powered rear light.) It produces a larger bright spot than the EL-300, but a yellower one. It also spreads more light around generally than the EL-300 (some of it with a slightly distracting pattern). Together these make it much more usable on its own. There's no limit on how long a battery charge lights of course, but it does go out when you stop. And apparently dynamo lights are rarely stolen, so being able to fit it into a pocket or not is irrelevent. (If you want a removeable dynamo light, there is a version of the Dynashoe than includes a light bracket so light and dynamo come off relatively easily together. Only left handed though: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/images/products/Lights/ZinkensLT1.jpg) On the downside it takes a bit of work to power it, and there is a constant thrum that can get annoying, even after being fairly careful about aligning the dynamo. There are versions of the Lumotec that include LED standlights that stay on when stopped, or you can simply use something like the EL300 or the smaller EL200 as a backup light. That also gives you something to see by that you can take off the bike if you have to change a bulb in the dynamo light, or fix a flat tyre. You can also align the EL300 to give you a slightly larger bright central spot. One foggy evening I found the lower mounting position of the light helped compared with the SolidLight or halogen, both of which were handlebar mounted. You could put a battery light on a fork mount if you wanted though, with a bit of work. Comparable products and possible improvements: The Schmidt E-6 headlight supposedly has a tighter beam pattern (the BiSy it is based on is out of production). http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/headlights.aspHalogen dynamo lights are basically obsolete. (The Kinetics link no longer lists them, for example.)
The hub I'm now using (see below) came with a D'Lumotec LED light, and later upgraded to an IQ Cyo. I did, briefly, run both the D'Lumotec and Lumotec, but the Lumotec didn't add much. Photo.
I could get a better bottle dynamo (£38 for a B+M 6 for example, or £110 for the more efficient S6 (though only 90 Euros from http://www.roseversand.de/rose_main.cfm?KAT_ID=1140&PRD_ID=15917&spr_id=2&MID=0&CID=175 Or I could get a hub dynamo. I haven't seen prices for the latest Shimano ones yet, but I expect it to be less than the SON for something very nearly as efficient.I bought a Shimano HB-NX22 in Drake's closing down sale. Photo. I'm tempted to upgrade http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/products/tech/lighting/dynamos/hub-dynamos/
New Shimano: http://www.shimano-europe.com/publish/content/cycle/seh/nl/en/news___info/news/extremely_light_rotation.html [11/05 available here, but apparently it's not that much improved over the 70. (I'd link to the parent of that, but I guess it was No-Archive.)] Existing Shimano: http://www.kinetics.org.uk/html/shimano_hubs.shtml http://www.wiggle.co.uk/?ProductID=5360014566 http://www.bike-components.de/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=8832&language=en http://www.roseversand.de/rose_main.cfm?KAT_ID=1140&PRD_ID=21173&spr_id=2&MID=0&CID=175 SON: http://www.kinetics.org.uk/html/son_hub_dynamo.shtml http://www.bike-components.de/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=241_67&products_id=5077 3) The SolidLights http://www.solidlights.co.uk/products/1103.php Much larger central spot than the EL300, and equally white, and also a useful amount of even light in a much wider area, with a fairly smooth transition out of the bright spot. (A co-worker walking across the car park towards them assessed it and the EL300 as equally bright when on-axis, but the SolidLight certainly looks brighter pointed at the ground. Maybe it's just the wider spot. Turning both on together, it is possible to offset the EL300 to add a small but useful amount to the size of the central spot, as it was with the Lumotec. It doesn't make a huge difference, but you might want a BS approved light on too anyway.) Doesn't last as long as the EL300 on a charge (at least not on full power), but did last the whole of my commute (about an hour). The separate light body and battery pack might have some advantages, but are a slight fiddle when taking the light on and off the bike. The major downside is obviously the cost. Maybe if we get that IR176 scheme set up..... Comparable products and possible improvements: The USE Exposure lights aren't as well regulated, but do come as a single unit - but apparently it doesn't have a quick release mount. (Like the Solidlights, the target market is more competitive off-road use than commuters.) http://www.wiggle.co.uk/Default.aspx?ProdID=5360015130 4) Specialized Solo Proview. This is a nominal 10W halogen MR-11 bulb, run off five D-cell NiCds (or alkalines, if you enjoy throwing money away - it was actually sold for use with alkalines). I bought it years ago heavily reduced as end of line stock (and Howes had run out when I went back the next day to get a second one), with surplus NiCds from Bull Electrical and an existing charger, so it was very much cheaper than the SolidLights, but possibly not an entirely fair comparison. Fully charged, it's well over 10W, when it's low battery warning light light goes on it's about 6W, and much dimmer than the SolidLights (incandescent bulbs, unlike LEDs, get less efficient when run at lower powers). But when it's fully charged, it puts out a lot more light than the SolidLight, over a much wider area (so most of it wasted for on-road use) - enough that you can't tell whether the SolidLight is turned on at the same time or not. The first time I tried it after a long period of disuse it didn't last the full hour, but a few charge/recharge cycles fixed that, though the NiCds probably aren't the full 4Ah capacity they claimed when new. It's a lot heavier than the SolidLights, but neither I nor my bike are really lightweight, and with a change of clothes and lunch in the pannier, and a full water bottle, the extra weight isn't that significant. Comparable products and possible improvements: I could get some new NiMH cells, available in up to 9Ah in D. I could make up a 6-cell holder and add a Willie Hunt LVR. [11/05 - http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~willie/lvr.html#anchor0009 now says "I have no time to fill small orders anymore."] Something like the Cateye RC-220 is nearly as cheap, but has a lead-acid battery that is even heavier per unit energy stored. A Lumicycle system would be lighter than mine, but heavier than the SolidLights, but also cheaper than the SolidLights. http://www.lumicycle.com/Product/Productlist.aspx?page=1&dep=82I haven't used the Specialized for some time. Partly this is because I haven't been cycling the long commute as much, partly because the Cyo on its own is good enough that charging the Specialized to add to it isn't worth the hassle.
Conclusions: For me, as a commuter, I think the extra cost of the battery SolidLights isn't worth the weight saving from the extra efficiency compared to the lights I already have, or probably even if I was comparing with buying new lights from scratch. Competitive off-road use is obviously a whole different thing, but it's not my thing, nor are long night Audax/randon type rides. What could well be more useful would be a dynamo powered SolidLight. That would eliminate the expensive lithium-ion battery and charger (though possibly making the regulation electronics more expensive). (Dynamo hubs aren't cheap, but if the dynamo SolidLight is considered as competing against other dynamo lights, that part of the cost is the same.) With a dynamo system you can't have more light just by using a more powerful bulb, your power is limited and more light has to come from more efficiency - and the 3W battery SolidLight was definitely nicer than my 3W dynamo light. And what's this I see in my inbox? SolidLights announcing the 1203D hub-dynamo-powered light. "The 1203D is designed to be powered from high quality hub dynamos such as the Schmidt and Shimano models (compatibility with other dynamos will be announced in the future). It takes advantage of the characteristics of those dynamos to power a pair of 3W LEDs, automatically adjusting their brightness to match the road speed. It also includes a flashing mode and a standlight to give 5 minutes or so of light after you've stopped."See http://www.solidlights.co.uk/products/1203d.php, but the 1203d is discontinued, and so is the XB2 upgrade to newer more efficient LEDs. The latter was, I believe only ever offered as an upgrade to existing 1203d owners.
I assume that the clever electronics that were Solidlights advantage can't compete with B+M's latest optics.